Trouble brewing as climate change affects beer supply

Jan Cross
October 18, 2018

Scientists are warning severe climate events could cause shortages in the global beer supply.

They used climate change data to model the projected effects on barley yields and the economic response to those changes. American tipplers will see beer prices rise up to $1.94 under the extreme events, the study said, and barley farmers will export more to other nations.

The study actually predicted that northern United States and China could actually see an increase in the amount of barley harvested - but the US may decide to "increase their exports to meet demand in other countries" instead of making more beer. However, the beer consumption in the United Kingdom would also fall most likely by a quarter.

"During the most severe climate events, our results indicate that global beer consumption would decline by 16 percent and that beer prices would, on average, double". On the other hand, beer consumption globally could decrease by 4 percent while prices could increase by 15 percent during less severe weather condition. We then modelled what this would mean for barley yields in 34 world regions which either produce or drink a lot of beer.

We have a high certainty of how things are changing.You get strong rainfall in extremes, or you get nothing.

A study has found barley yields could drop by as much as 17 per cent if temperatures continue to rise.

Beneath that overall impact, regional differences would be stark.

Of course, the availability of beer is "not the most concerning impact of future climate change", as the study authors duly note.

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During less severe weather conditions, Argentina and Canada may still decrease its beer consumption by 0.27 billion and 0.22 billion liters respectively. Consumption in the USA could fall by between 1.08bn and 3.48bn litres.

The researchers acknowledge that their study has some limitations.

If there ain't no beer in heaven, the same thing might one day be happening on Earth. Therefore, the price of barley is going to become more expensive and your beer too! "A sufficient beer supply may help with the stability of entertainment and communication in society", Guan said.

"I'm a beer drinker and home brewer, so the topic seemed like a fun combination of my professional and personal lives", Davis tells Yahoo Lifestyle. According to professor Dabo Guan of the university of East Anglia, "these crops of high quality are even more sensitive".

The research paper has attracted wide attention, as it gives people a very concrete reference point from which to view the concept of climate change.

But Davis also acknowledged that for him, as it is for many, the beer index is personal.

Consumers in developed countries who want to avoid shortages would be wise to support policies reducing emissions of gases scientists blame for warming the planet, Guan said.

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